Five Eagles Leftovers, Things To Watch

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.Here are some things to watch tonight, along with some leftovers from earlier in the week mixed in.

1. His name is Nick Foles

The rookie gets the start and will play the first quarter against the Jets. In three preseason games, he’s 36-for-57 for 507 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. In my mind, Foles has cemented the backup job, but we likely won’t find out if Andy Reid feels the same way unless Michael Vick gets knocked out of a regular-season game. As we’ve discussed, the Eagles don’t technically have to designate a backup if they keep three quarterbacks active on gameday.

Foles is 8-for-8 for for 45 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone. He said the key inside the 20 is making sure everyone is on the same page and executing on time.

“You have to play fast, and you have to be on time. You can’t be late,” Foles said. “The guys have been doing a good job, and we just have to finish this week in the preseason doing the same thing.”

Foles has also been willing to throw the ball into tight spaces and has allowed his weapons to make plays on the ball.

“You can’t go out there and play and be afraid to throw a ball into tight coverage, zip one in there,” he said. “Stuff’s going to happen. There are great players on the other side of the ball too.  I know coach [Marty] Mornhinweg wants us to be aggressive, really go through our reads and be smart about it, so I just really want to be aggressive and be sharp.”

2. Safety spots up for grabs

Don’t be surprised if the Eagles add a safety from another team once teams cut their rosters down to 53 on Friday. For now, the backups to Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are Jaiquawn Jarrett, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Phillip Thomas. There’s probably only room for two of those backups – likely Jarrett and Atogwe – on the final roster.

Atogwe has had success in the league, but battled through injuries last year and was let go by the Redskins. He’s missed the last two preseason games because of hamstring trouble, but hopes to play against the Jets.

“At this point in time, I definitely believe I’m ready to go in there and play,” Atogwe said. “I have a firm grasp of the defense, continue to improve and learn more, but at this stage, I feel confident in being out there.”

If Allen goes down, the idea of playing Jarrett and Coleman together in coverage is cause for concern. We’ll see if Atogwe can go tonight and if he still as a job come Friday.

3. A role for Thornton?

Defensive tackle Cedric Thornton has had a good summer and looks like a good fit for Jim Washburn’s style of play. He should make the roster, but what will his role be? The Eagles have Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox at DT for now. Cullen Jenkins is in the mix too, but he’s been playing a lot of left defensive end with Jason Babin sidelined. And Antonio Dixon is on the roster bubble.

If the Eagles are confident in Thornton playing significant snaps right away, Dixon could be expendable.

I asked him what the key is to holding up against the run in Washburn’s system.

“Awareness, I mean we’re coming off the ball every time as fast and hard as we can. So it’s just awareness,” he said. “Once you come off, you’ve got to beat the man with the knife to get to the man with the gun. So we just beat the man in front of us, and I just look for the ball then.”

4. Kelly’s development becomes key

A month ago, I was of the opinion that Dennis Kelly would be a weekly inactive in his rookie season. Now, the fifth-round pick might be the first man in should King Dunlap or Todd Herremans go down.

Kelly started at right tackle last week against Cleveland, and he’s also played guard in the preseason. With Demetress Bell continuing to look lost, it seems likely that Kelly will be the first backup at tackle in Week 1 against the Browns.

“Tackle is where I feel most comfortable, that’s where I’ve played since college,” Kelly said. “But being down in the guard stance, getting in the three-point stance is probably the most different thing for me. I feel like I can do every position. I really haven’t done center yet so we’ll see if that comes.”

Kelly was joking about playing center, but playing guard is certainly in play, especially considering the Eagles’ lack of depth on the interior of their line. At 6-8, he said it’s a challenge to stay low all game. And sometimes, when he gets fatigued, he finds himself getting too high and making mistakes.

“I was in on that 10-minute drive and I got a little tired,” Kelly said. “You could tell on the film. So I just have to make sure that my cardio’s up a little bit and just to focus in when it gets hard.”

5. Vermeil on Andy

This has nothing to do with tonight’s game, but Dick Vermeil stopped by practice earlier this week, and the former Eagles coach continues to support Andy Reid.

“Andy knows what has to be done, and I really believe he’s the guy that will eventually get it done here in Philadelphia. I mean win a world championship, but it’s tough,” Vermeil said. “You’ve got to experience some good fortune. You’ve got to have good luck. You’ve got to stay healthy. You can’t turn the ball over, a ball can’t get batted up in the air some time in a critical, tight, tight game, because there are so many other teams trying to do it as well as Andy’s doing it, it’s tough.”

And Vermeil knows all about what it takes. As I was listening to him, it was impossible not to notice the giant Super Bowl ring on his right hand.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: After Cuts, More Work For Roseman

Teams have until Friday night at 9 p.m. to trim their rosters down to 53.

For now, coaches and general managers are focused on making sure they keep the right guys. They’re exploring potential trades (as Andy Reid explained yesterday) and probably making practice-squad projections.

But they’re also looking at what’s going on around the league. With 31 other teams forced to let go of 22 guys each, Reid and Howie Roseman will need to have opinions formed on a new pool of about 682 players.

Last year, for example, the Eagles claimed guard Kyle DeVan off waivers exactly one week before he was inserted into the starting lineup against the Rams. Where might the Eagles look to upgrade this year?

Safety is one area. We know Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are the starters, but if the Eagles can add a player to bolster their depth, expect them to make a move. Neither Jaiquawn Jarrett nor Oshiomogho Atogwe is guaranteed a spot.

The Eagles could address offensive line depth as well, specifically at guard/center. The guess here is that Julian Vandervelde and Steve Vallos make the team initially as backups. But if an upgrade is available, the Eagles will take a look.

And finally, fullback. Stanley Havili has the job for now, but that could change.

We’re more than a week away from the opener, but look for Reid and Roseman to be active in shaping the roster in the next four or five days.


Linked this one above, but Reid says the phones are “very active” this time of year, as teams discuss trades.

Reid also said Nick Foles is the No. 2 quarterback – for now.

T-Mac had the scoop on Vick’s rib padding a couple days ago. Yesterday, Vick talked a little more about what the new protection will provide.

According to one analyst, the Eagles have only one offensive player who ranks among the top 10 at his position.

And here are 10 players currently on the roster bubble.


Is Reid a Hall of Fame-worthy coach? Not yet, writes’s Dan Graziano:

As for Reid, you know I have nothing but respect for the job he’s done with the Eagles and his abilities as a coach and a personnel man. I think his record holds up against that of anyone currently coaching. He’s 136-90 and has nine playoff appearances in 14 years. In the salary cap era, what he’s done in Philly is remarkable. However — and Reid himself knows this — he’s not getting a sniff in that Hall of Fame voting room if he doesn’t end up with a Super Bowl title on his resume. May not be fair, but that’s the way these things work.’s Don Banks is having Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe flashbacks when he watches Foles:

Hate to list Foles as a winner every week, but is anyone else here starting to think Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe, circa 2001? Sounds implausible, I know, but so did the idea of a sixth-round pick supplanting the franchise in New England not quite 11 years ago. Foles has looked poised and promising in his three chunks of preseason action for Philadelphia, and starter Michael Vick can’t seem to stay healthy enough to see a third drive in any game he plays. And hey, at least Foles was taken in the draft’s third round. So it’s not like he went 199th overall and we’ll be hearing about all the other quarterbacks (“The Foles Six?”) who were taken ahead of him. experts are making their season predictions. Ian Rapoport pegs Vick for MVP, and Akbar Gbajabiamila thinks Reid will be Coach of the Year.


No practice today, but Brian Westbrook, who will retire as an Eagle, will meet with the media. We’ll have that covered, along with much more, including a final 53-man roster projection.

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Ten Eagles On the Roster Bubble

Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk.The Eagles have until 9 p.m. Friday to cut their roster down to 53.

That means 22 players currently on the squad will be told not to show up next week.

Keeping that in mind, here are 10 players who are sitting squarely on the roster bubble.

Chris Polk – He’s had an OK preseason, carrying 13 times for 51 yards (3.9 YPC) and catching five balls for 42 yards. Polk has shown his versatility and is probably the Eagles’ best back in pass protection, but there might not be a spot for him. At this point, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and Bryce Brown are clearly ahead of him. Polk’s best chance at a roster spot is if the Eagles decide to keep a fourth running back.

Chad Hall – Amazingly, he’s still eligible for the practice squad. Hall was active for seven games last year and eight in 2010. He can do a lot of different things – run the ball, catch the ball, return kicks, return punts – but the question is whether he does any of them at a high enough level to warrant a roster spot. Hall has 14 catches for 135 yards and 12 carries for 42 yards in his career. It seems that undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson has a similar skill set, and the rookie is definitely going to make the team, which could make Hall expendable. Then again, with Riley Cooper likely to miss time early in the season, the Eagles could look to keep six receivers, and no one’s snatched that final spot just yet.

Marvin McNutt – Speaking of which… McNutt also has a chance for that last wide receiver spot. Taken in the sixth round of April’s draft, he has not shown much in the preseason, with just one catch for 13 yards. Based on what we’ve seen so far, McNutt is not going to contribute as a rookie. But if the Eagles like his potential, they could hang onto McNutt. The practice squad is also an option for him.

Darryl Tapp – The veteran is not going quietly. He’s had a strong preseason, beating Browns left tackle Joe Thomas for a sack and forced fumble on Friday night. Keep in mind that Tapp is only 27-years-old. He’s in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to make $2.575M. Perhaps another team would offer up a late-round pick for his services. If not, the Eagles could go heavy on the defensive line and hang onto Tapp.

Antonio Dixon – His chances of making the team increased when Andy Reid announced earlier this week that Mike Patterson might miss the entire season. Back in 2010, Dixon was one of the Eagles’ best defensive players, consistently making plays in the run game. But the Eagles hired Jim Washburn last offseason, and Dixon hasn’t been much of a factor since. He played four games in 2011 before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. The writing may have been on the wall this offseason when the Eagles re-signed Derek Landri, re-structured Cullen Jenkins’ contract and drafted Fletcher Cox in the first round. Those three players are clearly ahead of Dixon, and Cedric Thornton probably is also. If the Eagles keep five defensive tackles, he’s on. If not, he’s probably off.

Keenan Clayton – For much of the summer, we’ve been writing about how he’s battling with Akeem Jordan for a roster spot. Well, for now, Jordan is a starter, taking over the WILL spot from Brian Rolle. The Eagles like Clayton’s cover skills, as they kept him on the field as the lone linebacker in dime packages at the end of last season. Juan Castillo hinted yesterday that the Eagles could use their linebackers in specialized roles again this season. I don’t see Clayton knocking another linebacker, like Rolle or Casey Matthews, off the roster. Rolle appears fit for a backup spot, and the guess here is the coaches think Matthews has more upside than Clayton. If they keep seven linebackers, Clayton hangs on. If not, he’s likely out.

Brandon Hughes – He was active for 13 games last year and played 91 snaps on defense (per PFF), most of which came as a starter against the Patriots. The Eagles have decisions to make at the backup cornerback spots. Second-year player Curtis Marsh is a lock, and we know rookie Brandon Boykin will make the team. But beyond that, it gets interesting. We know Joselio Hanson can only play inside. And if Boykin beats Hanson out for the first-team nickel spot, Hanson probably doesn’t make the team. That would increase Hughes’ chances. Two things working in Hughes’ favor: He can play outside, and among defensive backs, he was the Eagles’ most productive special teams player in 2011.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – His status was one of the team’s biggest mysteries when camp started in Lehigh in late July. And in many ways, it remains that way as we approach final cuts. Jarrett had his moments at camp. There were glimpses of the player the Eagles described when they drafted him in the second round of the 2011 draft. But in a starting role against the Steelers in the first preseason game, he suffered miscue after miscue. The truth is, even if Jarrett lasts through the initial cut-down deadline, he shouldn’t get too comfortable. The Eagles could add a safety or two after other teams get down to 53.

Oshiomogho Atogwe – He’s been around all summer, but it’s difficult to get a feel on how Atogwe fits in. He battled hamstring, knee and toe injuries last season and is 31-years-old. Atogwe has missed the last two preseason games because of hamstring trouble. At practice, he’s running with the second team. With the Eagles lacking safety depth, Atogwe could make the team by default. But if he can’t get healthy, the Eagles could just let him go.

Julian Vandervelde – Offensive line depth is a concern. Vandervelde, a fifth-round pick in 2011, probably has the inside track on a spot, but he’s no lock. If the Eagles only keep one interior lineman active on gamedays, that player needs to be able to play guard and center. Vandervelde has been learning center on the fly this summer, but in the last preseason game, he botched one snap, resulting in a fumble, and let another go early, before Trent Edwards was ready for it. With Mike Gibson on IR, Vandervelde is competing with Steve Vallos and Dallas Reynolds for now. But the Eagles could add offensive line help from elsewhere once teams make cuts.

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Eagles Practice Observations

Philadelphia Eagles undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson.Damaris Johnson was lined up one-on-one with Brandon Hughes and had a step on the cornerback down the left sideline.

Michael Vick let go of the football, but before it arrived, Hughes made contact with Johnson, broke up the pass and landed on the 5-foot-8 wide receiver.

Johnson grimaced and was slow to get up. You could almost see him consider staying down for a moment, but instead, he fought through the initial pain and jogged towards the sideline.

Later, during 7-on-7s, lining up in Jeremy Maclin’s place, Johnson got behind Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and in front of Nate Allen, hauling in a pass of 20+ yards from Vick.

He’s still got a long way to go, but clearly the coaches liked what they saw out of Johnson Thursday night, and they want to see more. All along, his best chance at making the roster appeared to be as the punt returner. But Johnson continues to look more and more comfortable as a receiver (playing mostly on the outside) and has put himself in position to contribute as a rookie.

More practice observations:

* Coming off a strong performance Thursday night, Phillip Hunt was rewarded today, running with the first team at left defensive end in place of Jason Babin. Hunt played both left and right defensive end against Pittsburgh. He was joined on the first team by Derek Landri and Trent Cole. It looked like Antonio Dixon and Fletcher Cox rotated at the other tackle spot.

* Curtis Marsh started practice, but did not finish. Still waiting on an injury update. But Hughes took his place on the outside in the “Nickel Nnam” package where Nnamdi Asomugha covers the tight end.

* Casey Matthews left practice early, and Jamar Chaney did not participate. That left Ryan Rau as the backup middle linebacker to DeMeco Ryans. Rau played alongside Akeem Jordan and Keenan Clayton with the second team.

* Mychal Kendricks continues to get the first-team nickel reps, alongside Ryans. I think he might be there to stay, even when Chaney returns from injury.

* During wide receiver/cornerback one-on-ones, Mardy Gilyard ran a go-route down the left sideline. Nick Foles dropped back and unleashed a deep ball, but this time, Hughes broke it up. Other than the incompletion, it was identical to the 43-yard touchdown on Thursday night.

* People have talked a lot about Foles’ arm strength, and it was on display again today when he fired a 10-yard out to Marvin McNutt. Trevard Lindley thought he had a chance for an interception and broke on the ball, but it was too late. The ball was already in McNutt’s hands.

* Oshiomogho Atogwe, the veteran among the safeties, called out and blew up a screen to Bryce Brown. If Jaiquawn Jarrett continues to play like he did Thursday night, Atogwe has a good shot to make the team.

* King Dunlap continues to get first-team reps at left tackle. Demetress Bell is with the twos. Andy Reid seemed to indicate this morning that it’ll stay that way for the week.

* If opponents continue to play their safeties deep against the Eagles, I wonder if we’ll see Reid and Marty Mornhinweg get more creative in how they get DeSean Jackson the ball. Today, we saw a wide receiver screen to him in the red zone. Oh, and the shovel pass to LeSean McCoy down there is alive and well.

* Jackson also beat Rodgers-Cromartie for a 40-yard bomb from Vick.

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DB Review: Issues For DRC, Asomugha, Jarrett

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi AsomughaHere is my player-by-player review of the Eagles defensive backs after having re-watched Thursday night’s preseason game against the Steelers. I will provide breakdowns on the other positions on Friday and Saturday. Click here for the linebackers.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – On one play in the first, he followed wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was in motion. Brown started out to the right of the formation, went in motion, but then came back. Last year, Eagles cornerbacks generally played one side or the other. But I think you’re going to seem Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha match up with specific receivers at times this year when it makes sense. Rodgers-Cromartie was good in coverage. He gave up a 7-yard completion on the play I just described, but later stayed with Emmanuel Sanders one-on-one as Ben Roethlisberger took a shot at him deep. However, Rodgers-Cromartie had a couple of issues we saw with him last year. He missed a tackle on running back Jonathan Dwyer, allowing him to pick up a few extra yards. And on the very next play, Rodgers-Cromartie launched himself at Byron Leftwich and picked up a 15-yard penalty. It was pretty much a textbook play of what you’re not supposed to do. He’s paid to cover, but Rodgers-Cromartie needs to be more reliable in the other aspects of his game.

Nnamdi Asomugha – As expected, he was used in different ways – both on the left and right sides. Asomugha assisted in run support on a 2-yard carry by Isaac Redman and again on a 4-yard run. It looked like the Eagles were in zone on a 3rd-and-11 play where Asomugha was initially on Sanders, but then passed him off. Roethlisberger found Sanders for a 17-yard completion before Jaiquawn Jarrett could get to him. On another play, Asomugha was used exactly how people want him to be used, playing man coverage on Antonio Brown and pressing at the line of scrimmage. The only problem? Asomugha got beat inside on a 14-yard completion. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger hole in a zone than the one he, Jarrett and Brian Rolle left on the Steelers’ first touchdown. Later, Asomugha didn’t exactly give great effort on Dwyer’s 33-yard run down the left sideline.

Joselio Hanson – He’s holding on to the first-team nickel corner job for now and made a couple very nice plays in this one. Hanson tackled Chris Rainey after a third-down completion and stopped him short of a first. He also made a good tackle on Redman in the flat on third down, forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal. I’m getting close to re-considering my decision to leave him off the 53-man roster.

Curtis Marsh – I may have missed it, but don’t think we saw the Nickel Nnam with Marsh joining Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. He mostly played left cornerback with the twos. Marsh had good coverage on wide receiver Toney Clemons, forcing quarterback Jerrod Johnson to throw the ball out of bounds on a designed rollout.

Brandon Hughes – He played right cornerback with the twos, but can’t say I noticed him one way or another. Don’t believe Hughes was targeted. He’s squarely on the roster bubble.

Brandon Boykin – I’ll get to his kickoff return when I do a special-teams review, but Boykin was the nickel corner on the second team. He had a chance to make a tackle on Rainey near the 10 on the 57-yard touchdowns, but couldn’t bring him down. It’s going to be interesting to see if he gets a chance to run with the ones in Hanson’s place at some point in the next few weeks.

Kurt Coleman – He started alongside Jarrett. Safety is an especially difficult position to evaluate off TV, but I thought he played fine. Coleman had three tackles, including one on Redman after a 5-yard gain.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – Not a good performance for the second-year safety. Jarrett bounced off Sanders after a 17-yard completion on 3rd-and-11. He missed a tackle on Brown, allowing him to pick up 6 extra yards in the second. Rainey ran right around him on the 3rd-and-13 draw that picked up a first. Jarrett came flying in and ran into Vinny Curry on Dwyer’s 33-yard run (must-see GIF right here). And he got blocked in the open field by backup lineman John Malecki on Rainey’s 57-yard touchdown. At this point, it’s tough to tell if Jarrett takes poor angles, is just slow, or both. I don’t mean to pile on the guy, but other than the one day at training camp where he looked good, he has not shown signs of contributing since being drafted in the second round.

Oshiomogho Atogwe – Not much action came his way. Atogwe finished with a pair of tackles (one solo). He lined up at safety alongside Jarrett with the second team. If Jarrett continues to struggle and Atogwe can show something, he’ll have a chance to make the team. Of course, there’s also the possibility that both guys make it.

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Eagles Practice Observations

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo talks to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.One of the biggest criticisms Juan Castillo faced last year was that he completely misused Nnamdi Asomugha.

Asomugha earned the reputation of being one of the best man corners in the league while in Oakland. But when he arrived last summer, Castillo talked about using him in more of a Charles Woodson-type role. Covering tight ends, playing inside and outside, maybe even back as a safety on a given play or two.

While Castillo tweaked the defense as last season went on, one thing stayed the same: He used Asomugha in a variety of ways.

And based on the first full-squad practice at Lehigh, that’s going to happen in 2012 also.

On one of the first plays today, Asomugha lined up inside against backup tight end Chase Ford. Last year, playing Asmougha inside was simple because the Eagles had Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside. But Samuel’s gone, and the new wrinkle today was that Curtis Marsh lined up outside at right cornerback.

Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, played only 13 defensive snaps as a rookie. But with Samuel gone, he’s looking to fill a bigger role in his second season.

“We rotate. We have different guys that do different things well. It’s by gameplan,” Marsh said.

Last year, Asomugha was effective against opposing tight ends. He was matched up against Jason Witten quite a bit, and the Cowboys tight end totaled just 52 yards receiving in two games against the Eagles.

“If you play a team with a really good tight end, we can virtually take that tight end out of the game, so that’s another advantage,” Marsh said.

Of course, this was only the first glimpse of the Eagles’ defense this summer, so there could be plenty of changes ahead.

Some other practice observations…

* Samuel, generally the most vocal player at training camp, is in Atlanta. And it looks like Darryl Tapp will assume the role of Eagle most likely to be heard during practice. “If you want to know who the energy source of our group is at practice, it’s Darryl,” Jim Washburn said earlier this week. Tapp is entering his seventh season, and Cullen Jenkins is entering his ninth, yet they were as enthusiastic as anyone in the 96-degree heat.

* You should take all depth chart notes with a grain of salt, but Derek Landri saw a lot of time with the first-team, alongside Jenkins, in Mike Patterson’s place. Landri played nearly 71 percent of the defensive snaps with the Panthers back in 2010, but many believed he would benefit from fewer snaps with the Eagles. And that turned out to be the case. Landri was an effective rotational player, and his playing time increased towards the end of the season (more than 50 percent of the team’s snaps in each of the last five games).

But if Patterson’s not ready to go when the Eagles play the Browns in Week 1, my money’s still on rookie Fletcher Cox to start alongside Jenkins.

* It looks like Dion Lewis will open camp as the No. 2 running back behind LeSean McCoy.

* The linebackers were lined up as you’d expect: DeMeco Ryans in the middle, Brian Rolle at the WILL and Mychal Kendricks at the SAM. There were quite a few different combinations in nickel: Ryans and Kendricks, Ryans and Rolle, Kendricks and Jamar Chaney. As linebackers coach Mike Caldwell pointed out earlier this week, there will likely be different nickel packages, based on down and distance. So seeing those different combinations is not surprising.

* Casey Matthews was in the middle with the second team. Chaney and Jordan were on the outside.

* Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman were the first-team safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe and Jaiquawn Jarrett running with the second team.

* The second defensive line foursome featured Brandon Graham, Cox, Antonio Dixon and Tapp.

* I didn’t see rookie Brandon Boykin get any reps with the first-team nickel. Aside from the Asomugha/Marsh/Rodgers-Cromartie combination, Joselio Hanson mixed in to his usual spot. The second-team corners were Marsh and Brandon Hughes on the outside, with Boykin in the slot.

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